Today we’d like to introduce you to Paula Dedkhad.
Hi Paula, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself
As long as I can remember, food has always been my interest. I grew up in a Thai household where my mom would cook almost every meal from scratch because she thought lunchables were not a meal, but a snack. Let me mind you, this was during the 90’s, early 2000’s. I’d go to school with spicy basil and a fried egg for lunch. My dad on the other hand is a sushi chef. Growing up, my parents didn’t have much, but food was our comfort. I was fortunate as a kid to be exposed to a variety of Asian cuisines. We’d go out for dim sum on the weekends or an effortless sukiyaki hot pot during the week.
My dad worked in various restaurants which lead to him opening Oishi Sushi with his partner at the time. Oishi was my first job and that’s where I met my partner, Jowane. Dating Jowane was a definite culture shock. His family are from the Micronesian islands, Pohnpei to be exact. Their food is so local and simple. I remember coming over and his mom, now my mother in law, asked if I ate raw fish. With confidence, I replied yes. What I didn’t expect was for her to take a fish and make a few slits with everything still attached. Up until that point I always had my raw fish filleted. Although I’m grateful. A meal with a Micronesian family taught me the how to live as a community. We ate with our hands from the same rice plate. We shared all and wasted none.
Now that I have my own family, I cook, prep, and budget my groceries. I’m a mom now so going out to eat all the time is not ideal. I started to have a lot more free time at home while Jowane worked most days. I’d rack up my free time watching recipes and life hacks online. I’d improvise with ingredients I had at my local Schnucks if I didn’t have time to run to Seafood City. My friends and cousin Anisa would come over and I’d have them keep my daughter busy while I figured out dinner. I liked receiving compliments and criticism about the food I made. I didn’t mind giving away recipes when asked because I believe anyone can cook. It’s all about the technique.
Anisa and my best friend Darline were really the ones pushing me to start Josephine’s Plate. Anisa is already in the wedding business and knew people. She’d coach me into networking and to stay connected. She got me a spot at my first pop up at Perennial back in June. Darline coached me emotionally. She didn’t want doubt creeping on me. I didn’t think people would be interested because what if the flavors were too complex?
I’m proud of my Thai upbringing and being introduced to Micronesian culture with Jowane. Josephine is our daughter’s name and Josephine’s Plate represents two cultures coming together onto one plate. A plate we can all share with the community.
Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
The struggles I face is literally running a business on my own. From obtaining the proper licensing to trying to make my business social media feel personal. I loved my job in restaurants. It was simple then, I’d work, make my money and go home. Now, it’s how personal can I get without getting too personal? Or how can obtain the correct license to serve food? I’d joke and say why did food have to be my interest and not candles? If it were up to me, I’d host dinner parties or teach a class if I had the opportunity.
Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
Now, I spend most of my days with my daughter. Before becoming a mom, I was a server working in various restaurants from Japanese steakhouses, helping my parents at Ocha to recently quitting as a Starbucks barista. I love high paced and physical environments. The energy motivated me to move faster. It was like a game in my head. I exuded all of my energy in one day to do it again the next. It got to the point where I was working 5-6 days a week.
What sets me apart from others is my perspective since becoming a mom. I give myself extra time to think so I let my thoughts run. I think about what types of food will reflect myself, but easy for a whole family to enjoy. I specialize in Asian/Pacific island like foods. It may not be exact with what it is like “back home”, but I grew up second generation Asian with a Pacific island partner in St. Louis. Right now our Micronesian wings are what’s popular. Jowane makes the marinade and I take control of the side dishes such as my summer salad with house made sesame oil dressing.
My ideal goal is to introduce Asian street food. I want the flavors from Josephine’s Plate to bring comfort to second generation kids like me. Overly complex and overly priced foods is overrated. Food brings us together and introduces our culture because I love a good mac and cheese myself, but I’ll gorge on curried chicken feet too.
If you had to, what characteristic of yours would you give the most credit to?
My success comes from my support. I’m proud that I’m able to attract the types of people around me. I do pick up orders on Sundays at Ocha, my parent’s restaurant. My mom would come in just to see if I needed a hand and prior to Sunday’s my brother always asked if I had the proper amount of ingredients I needed for the orders. I still have a long way to go, but I wouldn’t be as successful if it weren’t for the support I have.
- Micronesian Wings. A tray is $55, a box is $30
- Sushi Charcuterie Board. Tuna or Crab is $18, Vegetarian is $15
- Panang Beef $15
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: instagram.com/Josephinesplate
- Facebook: facebook.com/Josepinesplate